An international controversy over safety certificates for passenger liners has forced Cunard Line to cancel two sailings out of Port Everglades, Fla., to the West Indies and the Caribbean, and has apparently jeopardized additional voyages during the important early winter cruise season, it was learned yesterday (Dec. 23).
The dispute has reportedly reached the highest levels in Washington where British officials are protesting the action of the United States Coast Guard in halting the sailing of the luxury liner CARMANIA to the West Indies Friday with 450 passengers on a 14-day trip.
That sailing has been cancelled, as has a January 4 cruise of the same ship on a six-day cruise to the West Indies.
The Coast Guard refused to certify the ship late last week, despite its certification by the British Board of Trade as to its compliance with terms of the 1948 International Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).
The company was forced to refund a reported $400,000 to 475 passengers booked for the West Indies trip.
In a statement yesterday, Cunard officials said that the CARMANIA's January 11 sailing on a 12-day West Indies trip is still scheduled and that another Cunarder, the FRANCONIA is slated to sail January 18 from the Florida port to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
A hint of the developing dispute took place last month when the round-the-world passenger cruise liner ORSOVA, owned by P & O Steamship Co., another British line ran into difficulties as to safety certification with the Coast Guard at Port Everglades.
The ORSOVA, however, was allowed to sail with her American passengers and it is understood that another P & O ship, the ARCADIA, sailed from the port with coast guard certification.
At issue specifically on the CARMANIA was glass door in the liner's first class dining room which the coast guard holds must be replaced by a steel door. Also, it is reported that the coast guard insists that a deck separating cargo holds from passenger quarters be insulated with steel and asbestos.
United States efforts to seek higher safety standards for passenger ships sailing out of American ports go back to the MORRO CASTLE disaster in the 1930's and reached a peak more recently with the fire on the YARMOUTH CASTLE.
The impetus has taken the form of stringent fire proof construction standards for American flag vessels and an upgrading of foreign flag vessels sailing out of U.S. ports.
These efforts reached a climax in amendments to the 1960 SOLAS convention in 1966. The amendments have not yet gone into effect, however,
CARMANIA Passenger Safety Row Nears End
Washington, Dec. 25 - The dispute over passenger ship safety -- centering on the British flag ship CARMANIA. -- appeared near resolution, but the incident may leave scars.
Although officials on neither side are talking, the U.S. Coast Guard's action in refusing a safety certificate to the 1954 built ship has thrust up once again many of the same arguments which have engulfed this subject in the past. And, for the most part, they appear to involve, at bottom, important differences of interpretation that were thought to have been resolved in past years. Also brought into question was the Coast Guard's inspection practices.
The seeming uncertainty of the acceptance by U.S. authorities of certificates of foreign governments of their own flag ships appears almost certain to be subject of further talks between governments.
The Coast Guard insists it checks each passenger ship as the law requires and if it doesn't measure up to the latest internationally-agreed standards to which it was built, plus the latest amendments which Congress by law insisted now must also apply, then a U.S. certificate may not be issued and the ship may not take passengers at U. S. ports.
The denial of such a certificate December 20 to CARMANIA cost Cunard Steam Ship $400,000 in fare refunds for one cruise and led to the cancellation of a second, shorter cruise, scheduled for early January.
St. John's Nfld., January 6, 1969 - The 7,000-ton British freighter ANDANIA was held in port under a Newfoundland Supreme Court Order while her agents bickered with the master of a Russian tug over salvage rights.
The ANDANIA, owned by Cunard of Great Britain and handled here by Bowring's Brothers Ltd., shipping agents, was towed into port by the Soviet ocean-going tug STEREGUS-CHIJ after radioing that her engines had quit in heavy seas 25 miles south of Cape Spear, Nfld.
Anatolia Zaitsev, master of the tug, claimed salvage of the freighter and the provincial court issued an order holding the ship in harbor until Bowring's either posted bond or settled with the Russians. Zaitsev said the amount of the settlement would be left up to the court.
Bruce Humphreys, a spokesman for Bowring's, refused to comment on negotiations over a salvage price, saying it was "strictly a private matter."
However, lawyer Leo Barry, acting for the Soviet Tug's owners, the Glavesryba Shipping Company, said: "The standard salvage would be about 30 percent of the valuation of the ship and its cargo."
London, January 12, 1969 - Cunard's 21,000-ton cruise liner CARMANIA ran aground last night on a reef of coral sand three miles south of San Salvador island in the Bahamas.
The ship carrying 450 passengers, sailed Friday from Port Everglades, Fla., after the U. S. Coast Guard detained her there two weeks in a dispute over fire safety regulations. Two tugs were on their way to help refloat her.
A skindiver inspected the hull but found no damage.
London, January 15, 1969 - Three ocean-going tugs are trying to pull the Cunard cruise ship CARMANIA off a reef in the Bananas Islands where she has been stuck for the last three days.
The liner, on a 12-day Caribbean cruise from Port Everglades, Fla., is aground on a reef three miles off San Salvador. She carries 471 passengers and 450 crew.
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